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Posted by Gregory Maassen on December 31, 2020 - Latest revision March 13, 2021  Reading time: minutes remaining

E-bike Longer and Happier: 15 Smart Strategies to Reduce E-bike Range Anxiety

E-bikers often do not know exactly how far they can ride with one battery charge and may avoid longer trips and hills, taking away the joy of exploring trails farther from home.

E-bike range anxiety

The fear of getting stranded with an electric bicycle, holding up the rest of a cycling group, asking for help, and "looking stupid" when the battery runs empty.

As with electric vehicles, range anxiety is a problem for manufacturers and riders alike. Range anxiety is the number one obstacle to electric vehicle (EV) adoption. It is the fear of getting stranded that holds people back from adopting EVs. Although less prominent, range anxiety also affects e-bikers.

Range anxiety is the number one reason people do not take part in our rides. The fear of getting stranded, holding up the rest of the group, asking for help, and "looking stupid" when the battery runs empty, stops people from e-biking.

Although the fear is real, facts show that very few e-bikers get stranded. None of our participants ever ran out of battery power, but we have plenty of members who experience range anxiety.

What factors determine the range of e-bikes?

Many environmental factors determine the range of an e-bike. Think of terrain (incline, type of hills), wind conditions, temperature, and the biking trails' surface (gravel, dirt, concrete, asphalt).

Add to these the type, weight, quality, reliability, and age of the battery pack, the motor's efficiency, an e-biker's fitness level and riding style (cruising or fast accelerations), the biker's weight, and, the e-bike's weight, wind resistance, and tire pressure.

It is impossible to keep track of so many variables. Although you can control what terrain and weather conditions to e-bike in, you do not want to think about all the factors. It takes away the fun of e-biking.

You should be able to jump on an e-bike confident that you can bike home without having to perform complicated mathematical calculations, such as understanding the inner-workings of batteries and motors, and keeping detailed energy consumption logs.

What you can do to reduce range anxiety

You can control range anxiety by buying an e-bike from a reputable manufacturer. Leading manufacturers of e-bike motors and batteries understand that the quality of the motor and durability of the battery-system are essential to the brand's reputation and your well-being.

If you buy an e-bike for $500 all-inclusive, do not necessarily expect its battery system to be reliable and long-lasting. The e-bike works fine for a while, but the real trouble may start soon after the one-year warranty expires.

Suddenly batteries fail, locks break, cords get eroded, chargers break, motors stop working and board computers keep resetting. We have seen it all. Without dealer support, you may end up with a defunct system and an e-bike with no range at all.

Quality comes at a price

 A Bosch lithium-ion 500 Wh powerpack retails above $800 and over $1,000 for 650 Wh; this is the price for just the battery. Other manufacturers charge similar prices for quality battery packs.

Overview of popular e-bike battery & motor systems

1

Bosch

Bosch produces batteries and e-bike motors. This German company is known for its quality products and it supplies components to Riese & Muller, Tern, Cannondale, Bulls, Trek, etc..

2

Fazua

Fazua is a manufacturer of e-bike drive systems focusing on the weight and efficiency of road e-bikes.

3

SR Suntour

Although perhaps best known for producing suspension systems, SR Suntour produces rear hub drives known for their quality and innovation.

4

Specialized

Specialized works with Brose motors and uses its batteries. 

5

Shimano

Shimano produces high-quality motors and batteries for brands including Raleigh, Trek, and Cannondale.

6

Bafang

Bafang is a manufacturer of affordable e-mobility components and complete e-drive systems, including batteries and motors.

7

Brose

Brose is known for its e-bike motors and has started to produce its own batteries. The company supplies components to Specialized and Harley Davidson, among others.

8

Yamaha

Yamaha produces batteries and motors for its e-bike lines and brands such as Giant. The manufacturer is credited with inventing of e-bike motor-assist system in the early 1990s.

9

Panasonic

Panasonic produces high-quality Lithium-ion technology cells.

These companies' engineers have figured out which motor/battery/computer combination provides the most reliable range.

You will have taken an essential step in reducing range anxiety by relying on established e-bike manufacturers' engineering solutions.

E-bike range calculators

Manufacturers have developed online range calculators and real-time range computers to estimate the range of an e-bike. 

Bosch's e-bike range calculator

The online calculator takes many variables into account, but it lacks information about e-bike models. Bosch does not produce e-bikes, so it can only estimate the range based on its products (motors, controllers, and batteries).

A screenshot of the bosch e-bike motor range calculator

A screenshot of the graphically pleasing Bosch e-bike motor range calculator that cleverly displays the estimated range of e-bikes' motors and batteries. Credit: Bosch.

Specialized goes a step further with its online range estimator to predict the range based on the model of the e-bike, not just the motor and battery.

Screenshot of the Specialized online e-bike range estimator

Screenshot of the Specialized online e-bike range estimator calculated for specific e-bike models. Credit: Specialized.

Specialized also has a nifty tool in its Mission Control app for e-bike models starting from 2019. Called "Smart Control," you can enter the distance you want to bike, and the app automatically regulates the e-bike's motor energy consumption during the ride to ensure you do not run out of juice.

Screenshot of the Mission Control app by Specialized

Screenshot of the Mission Control app by Specialized. The app has a function called "Smart Control." Credit: Specialized.

You can even select how much battery power you want remaining when arriving at your destination. This is ideal to manage range anxiety. If you know that you will always get back, the anxiety should disappear.

When it comes to technological advances to reduce range anxiety, Specialized offers the best solution currently in the market.

Reliable e-bike batteries, computers, and motors are expensive

The more you invest in quality, the less nervous you need to be about the range of an e-bike, as the systems provide a reliable estimate of the range. 

With quality components, you know how far you can e-bike and plan accordingly.

Strategy Number 1: Buy an e-bike from a well-known quality brand and refrain from experimenting with inexpensive online offers that are just too good to be true.

What else you can do to reduce range anxiety

Biking is so much more fun if you can relax and enjoy the full potential of your e-bike. Consider the following additional 14 strategies to reduce any range anxiety. 

  • Have Reserve Capacity: Be conservative and aim for 30-35% of battery capacity when you arrive at the final destination. If you know you have a reserve, you will experience less range anxiety.
  • Charge the Battery: Make it a habit to charge the battery often so you'll always have a full battery. Charge overnight before a long ride and charge under normal circumstances (avoid extreme temperatures). Modern lithium-ion batteries have no memory problems and should last for a long time.
  • Read the Manual: Read the manual on how to maintain the battery. Follow the charging directions of the manufacturer. Do not charge batteries in low or hot temperatures.
  • Swap Batteries: Buy an extra battery to extend the range. Battery swapping is an effective range anxiety mitigation strategy. Although expensive, it is still much more affordable than regular visits to a psychologist to address range anxiety. E-bikes with dual batteries are also available, although you pay a premium in price and weight.
  • Use a Range Extender: Some e-bikes work with range extenders. They are not as heavy as batteries and may produce enough power to get you home.
  • Use Detailed Indicators: Buy an e-bike with a battery level indicator with percentages, not just bars. Most e-bike apps show percentages.
  • Invest in a TowWhee: A what? It is a towing rope specially designed so that one e-bike can tow another e-bike. Please read our review.
  • Ride With the Lowest Motor Assist: Although riding without a motor's assistance is missing the point of e-biking, it effectively increases the range of an e-bike. Any e-bike has an impressive long-range if you do not use its batteries or only use the lowest motor assist.
  • Test Ride With and Without Motor Assist: How does the e-bike respond without the motor? Does the motor prohibit normal pedaling because of resistance when it is not engaged? How does it perform going uphill? Knowing you can always pedal home significantly reduces range anxiety.
  • Inflate Tires: Keep your tires inflated correctly. Low tire pressure increases resistance and energy consumption. Check the pressure indicated in PSI on the side of the tire.
  • Maintain the e-bike: Maintenance keeps e-bikes running smoothly and efficiently. You want to avoid breakdowns.
  • Check for Software Updates: Manufacturers are continually finding ways to improve the efficiency of motors and batteries. Regularly updating software can make a difference.
  • Reduce Weight: The more weight you carry, the less the range of an e-bike. Do you need those panniers and extra locks on a trip?
  • Join Our Events: We organize "out-of-town" rides that are 30 to 40 mile long. These are meaningful events to test the range of your e-bike. We never leave an e-biker stranded. We want you to test the capabilities of your e-bike. We salute you for testing the range of your e-bike, assuming you came to the event with a fully charged battery.

Conclusion

Modern controls, software, and calculators provide an estimate of the range of an e-bike. They take away some range anxiety, but not all. There are too many variables that cannot be measured to predict an e-bike's range accurately.

Leave the technicalities of range management to the engineers of e-bike manufacturers and enjoy longer rides with the 15 strategies. 

E-bike Lovers' E-bike Range Anxiety Mitigation Program

We understand that range anxiety is difficult. No one wants to run out of battery and hold up the group.

E-bike Lovers' dedication to combat range anxiety during e-biking events

Charge the Battery

We remind e-bikers to charge the battery the day before we ride. Yes, remember to charge your battery fully overnight. It makes an enormous difference. Reading the battery manual also helps.

An image of a bosch battery charger

An image of a Bosch dual voltage compact battery charger. Credit: Bosch.

Swap a Battery

We suggest to e-bikers that an extra battery is a worthwhile investment to enjoy longer rides.

An extra battery is expensive, but often a necessity, if you want to e-bike anxiety-free on longer trips.

A picture of a Yamaha Multi Location 600 Wh e-bike battery

A picture of a Yamaha Multi Location 600 Wh e-bike battery. Credit: Yamaha.

Plan Ahead

Steep terrain consumes more battery power. E-biking on gravel roads also consumes more energy.

Each E-bike Lovers' trail description has information on the terrain to aid with energy-consumption planning.

A picture of a cup of tea or coffee with a tablet showing an E-bike Lovers' trail description.

Drink a cup of tea or coffee while you plan your next trip with E-bike Lovers' trail descriptions.

Contingency Planning

If you run out of juice, we either tow you back or transport you and your e-bike to a nearby bike shop or to the starting point of the trail.

There is no need to feel anxious about getting stranded. We are here to help and no one will be left behind.

An e-bike with a woman standing next to her e-bike that is being towed by another e-bike

Enjoy the ride!


Dr. Gregory F. Maassen

Gregory discovered e-biking after 20 years of overseas work as project manager for the World Bank and USAID. He writes about e-mobility and e-biking in the DMV area, and loves the outdoors (white water kayaking, hiking and biking). He lives with his wife, Janet in Washington DC.


Favorite e-bike: Riese & Muller Super Charger Class 1 touring e-bike.


Dr. Gregory F. Maassen

FOUNDER E-BIKE LOVERS



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